Understanding the Early Church

  • Randy Karlberg
woman holding a Bible

With the trials of COVID-19 life affecting our world I have been rethinking the way I view many things in my world. I have been more diligent in being totally present when I have been interacting with people, due to the limitations and angst people are working through. Even a “pop-in” visit to family members is scrutinized through the social mandates that the current crisis has forced upon us. Handwritten communication has leapfrogged to the top of my appreciation grade as I realize the intentionality with which it is written, and appreciate all the more that it is not digital communication. But one thing that has surprised me is my deepening appreciation for the Word of God.

I have always known the Bible to be God’s Word. It is the truth, and that has never been a doubt of mine. While I don’t understand all of what Scripture reveals, I fully realize it as God’s truth. Studying the history of the Bible and how God has preserved it through generations is fascinating to me. Understanding the massive number of copies as well as the care and sacrifice through millennia to maintain Scriptural integrity is an overwhelming study. My personal historical Biblical analysis has deepened my love and appreciation for the gift of God’s Word. I am more in love with God’s Word today than ever in my life!

But what I did not anticipate was realizing how the current crisis our world is enduring is so similar to the challenges that the early Church experienced. Let me explain. The First Century Church went through a long time where the government would monitor and even outlaw the gathering of church groups. Historically, this time of Church gatherings being monitored was known as the Diaspora, or Dispersion. The result of this persecution was the Gospel being spread through much more of the world. The communication between believers and church leadership was all distance communication. Many of these communications were shared from the church in one community with the church in another community. Kind of like the “share” options we used so often in our modern communications.

Often in the Biblical Epistles or “letters,” the author shares how he longs to be with the brothers and sisters in the faith in person. I think we can appreciate this longing even more after these last months. My guess is I am not the only one that values personal interaction more now than in January.

Another practice that was very evident in the early Church was believers helping one another with needs. Acts 5 tells us that, “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.” This was not a socialist type of society rather it was people taking care of others who were in need because of their love for Jesus. Recently I have personally witnessed people reaching out to others in need and helping them through this difficult time of need and financial uncertainty.

All through the Bible we read of trials and how God uses trials to draw His people closer to Him and increase their faith. James tells us in James 1:2-4 , “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” It is clear God uses trials in our lives for our becoming more like the people He calls us to be. When we are going through trials, do we see how God is at work? This was a challenge for the First Century Church to realize as James addresses. Is this not applicable to where we are at in 2020?

As I read through the Bible I am struck continually with the amazing provision that God gives His people. I read the historical account, and as I work through the struggles surrounding the present health crisis I realize that their First Century situation shares even more with our current condition than I had ever realized. This has helped me read God’s Word with more vibrant understanding.

Enjoy some time with your Lord and His Word!